Transcript: Business Growth In A Digital World

Oh, hi, everyone. Welcome, I hope you’re having a great day so far. My name is Semiha Kocer and I’m a Growth Marketing Lead at WordPress.com.

Today, we have a really inspirational session about how to turn your passion into a business, and think that while juggling all the challenges of the world, of pandemic, and all the other things. At the end of the session, we will enjoy, do a practice Chair Yoga and some meditation. With that said, I would love to welcome our guest, Jessica Petrie, from Yoga Next Door. Hi, Jessica. Hello, thanks so much for having me. Thanks so much for being here. Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about your business? So my name is Jessica Petrie and I am a Vinyasa and Restorative Yoga teacher and four years ago now I started teaching yoga and I was initially teaching in my living room and class attendance grew and then we moved out to what was
a three season porch and students kept coming. And then we expanded it to the
space that you see around me. So we have a little yoga studio attached to the back of our
house and then Covid hit. So with the pandemic, I had to take my whole business online and started teaching my weekly class schedule online and then have since expanded to creating a class library that students can access any time on demand. And now that we’re in a
different stage of the pandemic with vaccines, retreats are a big part of my business model, too.
So in the summertime, this summer after taking a break, we’ve had two retreats
so far and we have one more planned. That’s truly inspirational. I know we have many people in
the audience who want to turn their passion into a business. I want to take a step back and go back to when you started your business. At what point did you know that you want to start this as a business and you know that you have the maybe expertise, energy, and then you have a family too, and the resources to start it? That’s a really good question. Yoga Next Door was kind of a mid-life change for me. I’ve been practicing yoga for 20 years, and the year I was
about to turn 40, I did my yoga teacher training and I finished my training and I just started practicing teaching. And I didn’t want to lose that momentum. So pretty much as soon as I finished my training, I started teaching. And I think I knew that I had something that was viable when people kept participating and coming. And I really followed my gut kind of. This was something that has always brought me a lot of peace and happiness. And at this stage in my life, it’s something that I wanted to share more broadly with my community. So that’s kind of how it all happened and where it began. And it wasn’t that long ago. And and why I stuck with it. Yeah, definitely. It is just so inspirational for me, And I’m sure inspirational for many people. I’m sure, like there have been many challenges along the journey. So I want to just stop and think about that. Like what were one of the most challenging things for you when you started the journey as a solopreneur, basically? Well, I think I brought the skill and passion for yoga to the business, to the table. And the challenge, one of the challenges all along, it’s still a challenge today is marketing. I’m not an expert in marketing, so I had to reach out to people I know in my personal network to get some support with that. And just try a lot of different things over the past couple of years. And I’m also not an expert in web design. So one of the things that was really appealing to me about the WordPress platform to have my website there and I didn’t, I built my website, and then it was working so well for me on WordPress. That’s why I stayed and why I continue to grow it there. One of the things I love about WordPress is any time I want to do something and I hit a roadblock or an obstacle in my own skills to build that into my site, the plan that I have, I easily can access a Happiness Engineer and they really do make you happy. They are super supportive and teaching you how to add different things that you want to to make your website more functional. There are two things that have been challenging learning brand new skills that have been really important to growing and sustaining this business. Yeah, yeah, oh my gosh yeah. That makes me so happy to hear that, our Happiness Engineers are truly the most helpful, friendliest people that I have known so far. So yeah, definitely. On the topic of website building and other things, I have learned that you actually have a second website. So how did that happen? What was the thought process for you launching a second site? Before the pandemic, my website was very basic. It just kind of explained who I was as a teacher and what my class schedule was. And when everything went online in Spring of 2019 I added payments to my website, which was a big step forward in its functionality, and I was live streaming my classes via Zoom, I actually still am, but the quality of a Zoom video is not as high as a regular video quality. So at that point, I knew a. I wanted to capture all of this content more formally. So I got a GoPro. Just a simple GoPro, and started filming classes with my GoPro, and it’s pretty quickly, based on the number of classes I teach every week, the volume of nice, higher quality videos I had was growing. And then I actually received one of the WordPress newsletters that talked about setting up a private site. And so I took my growing video, audio video content and created the second site for my class library that can only be accessed by purchasing a membership through my original website. So the functionality of a private site and a public site allowed me to grow the business in that direction. Once I had the content to do it. Wow, that’s great. And that’s, I think, a great way to create some passive income while we are also focusing on your retreats, and active classes, and everything, because we only have limited time in a day, right? Exactly, exactly. Yeah, yeah. Since you have done so much, I just want to ask, how do you measure success for yourself? And I’m not talking about like, don’t share any of your numbers, but what does that mean to you? How do you measure the impact you have, what you are doing? I think the biggest measure of success that I have is student loyalty. I think those of us that have small businesses over the past year and a half, you know who your loyal customers are. And the pandemic really forced me to grow my business in ways that it probably would have not developed in the past year and a half. So customer loyalty,
students who show up in the studio or they show up online, if they can’t make it to the studio, students who get involved with that class library and then come on yoga retreats. So now I have an audience of people that, I’m in Maine, so are not in Maine, but can come to Maine to join me for a yoga retreat. I also have loyal students who have invited me to come to their workplaces, whether it’s virtually or in person to lead chair yoga or meditation sessions. So that’s the big indicator of success for me is that what I’m doing is serving a need for my students, so much so that they keep coming back and they are accessing it in multiple ways. Yeah, that’s amazing. Just like people love your content, and they just keep coming back for it like love what you are doing. That’s just the best feeling, I think. So yeah. I just want to think about this, like for anyone who’s maybe start think about or think about starting something like this, like what would be the advice you would share with them? I don’t know, any advice or maybe like where you are right Now, you had different advice? What what would you want to share with them? Since this came out of a passion for me, I think I have really been trusting my gut and listening to what my heart is telling me to do. So I think that’s a really important part of building and growing a small business. I also have not been afraid to reach out for help in the areas that are in my area of expertise. I’ve had a couple of people give me some marketing advice, give me some video advice over the years, have people look at my website and help me understand the backend analytics and which pages are functioning well. So there have been over the past couple of years, a couple of times that people have done a deep dive into my website to give me feedback. And then based on that information, I improve my site. So it all makes sense to me because it’s my baby, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be transferable to other audiences. So I think those are two things like follow your heart, listen to your gut, but bring the experts that you have in your network in to help you put forth the best product that you can. Yeah, yeah. And you made this in a matter of months, not years with the pandemic. That’s just impressive, to be honest. So how did you actually make that happen? That’s something I’m really curious. I think, it’s a little innate. I think it’s my personality. I really like problem solving. So that mental challenge of figuring how to keep things going was very stimulating to me. I’m a naturally creative person and it was rewarding when I actually figured stuff out. But there was also a big level of necessity, you know? If I wanted to keep my business going during the pandemic, I had to beat this shift. I had to figure out how to take everything online, otherwise this little business wouldn’t have made it through. And I wouldn’t be teaching yoga right now. Okay that’s a little dramatic, but it wouldn’t look like it does. I get what you are saying, I totally hear you. So yeah. But yeah, and like you started this business, and you are still growing and experiencing new things, but where do you get your inspiration from? What sources you look at for to drive inspiration and keep growing? Well, like I said, a lot of it comes within. And how much yoga has served me as an individual, as a parent. I haven’t mentioned yet, I have three kids that are 15, 12 and 8. And so yoga has helped me be a calmer, happier parent. So the changes I’ve seen personally through my practice, I really want to be able to share with others. I’m also very inspired to make yoga more accessible, especially to those people that are working and have really busy lives. So my content is more accessible now that it’s online and I have class lengths that range and think about yoga as more than just the work that we do online. That yoga can be breathing, yoga can be meditation. So I’m inspired to take this thing that’s greatly improved my life and make it more accessible to my community and people at large. I also am in the process of doing some more training right now and learning more about how to make yoga philosophy more accessible to my students and in my teaching. So, yeah, that’s where my inspiration comes from. My teacher right now that I’m studying with Rolf Gates is my spiritual inspiration. I love what Adriene Mishler, Yoga with Adriene, has done to make yoga more accessible across the world. Yeah, thanks for sharing that. Yeah so we have a question from the audience, actually. So “How do you handle marketing your website and your classes?” I think this is from Li. I know that you mentioned that but maybe you can share more details about this with us? That’s a really great question. I do a lot of marketing through social media. So, Instagram, Facebook are my main social media channels, and I’m just starting to dabble in Pinterest, which is a whole different animal. So I market there. One thing that I found to be really helpful is groups on Facebook. So, when I make a post on Facebook about a new class or workshop or a retreat, then sharing it and posting it to different yoga groups, whether they’re local or regional groups, those are two marketing strategies I’ve used. And also Google My Business. I try to make sure my Google Business page is always up to date and add content consistently there. For a while I was paying to do advertising on Google and on social media, but my latest approach is more just engaging and trying not to pay. But also with a small business like mine, a lot of it is word of mouth. And so people that come to a retreat or do a class and tell a friend, that’s the best way. But those are the other ways I’m also getting the word out there. That’s amazing and also differences in marketing tactics for sure, but all of the channels you are using, I think, are great. I think we have another question from the audience. So let’s see. “Are you handling payment through your WordPress.com site? What tips do you have for other small business owners to add e-commerce to their site?” This is from Kristin. Yeah, so I am handling payment through myself, through my site. I added the PayPal links to my website and they have been very easy. And I collect, I would say, over half of my revenue that way. PayPal does take a cut, but the convenience of having it there, especially for people that are from far away or now that people are coming back to the studio, we just don’t have to worry about that piece of the business of their practice. They just get it done before they come to class and we can just focus on yoga when they’re actually here. I also use Venmo as my second payment form, but that’s not through the website. That’s separate. Yeah, that’s great. Yeah, so another thing I noticed is that while you’re working forward in WordPress with your business model, I know you have that stuff so far, but what are your next steps? What are you looking forward to as of August 2021? Well, I’m looking forward to leading my last retreat. Summertime is kind of retreat season is Maine, so I have one more coming up, September 10th and 12th on a little island in Casko Bay, Maine. So we’ll be doing a weekend of yoga and meditation and really nourishing food, relaxation, downtime. So I’m looking forward to that. I’m also really looking forward to promoting and growing the use of that class library I mentioned at the beginning of our talk. I now have over 100 classes on the library. And there are varying levels and lengths. So there’s Vinyasa content, there’s Gentle Yoga content, there’s Chair Yoga content, and then what I call Yoga Breaks, which is a class that’s 30 minutes or less. And I’m beginning to build up the Restorative Yoga and Guided Meditation portion of the class library as well. So that’s a big goal for the coming year. To get people back into the studio as much as we can and continue getting my yoga out more broadly through the class library. Nice, okay, I think we have one more question. I think this is the last question we can take today. But yeah. “Who is your target audience? I am a mental health professional and like you, want to make my expertise more accessible.” This is from Elaine. I hope I’m pronouncing it right. But, yeah, that’s a great question. My target audience actually is women my age. So, women in their 40’s who have kids, all the way up to women in their 70’s. So I have mostly women ages 40 to 70, and they vary in physical ability and how much they’ve got going on in their lives. And I, you know, actually doing the work for the past years and seeing who responds to the classes, who keeps coming back, who those loyal students are, helps me understand my audience. And then I can be more targeted with my marketing efforts and also understanding the backend analytics of who’s responding to things on social media, or, I haven’t quite gotten into the demographics of who visits my website, but that’s something else I’ll work on in the coming year. Yeah, that’s something to look forward to. Yeah, OK. This is it for like, this is the time we have for questions and talk. Thanks so much, Jessica. This felt like so inspirational. I truly resonate with what you are offering, and talking to you, I have a kid, like life is throwing curveballs, so this is really great, like what you’re offering of helping us practice yoga and meditate. With that said, I want to give the floor to you so that you can give us the opportunity to do some yoga today. Fantastic so the next portion of our session is going to be some Chair Yoga, stretching and breath work, and then a Guided Meditation session. So before you meditate, I find it’s really helpful to move my body and come into my grasp. When we move our bodies, we release some of that stiffness and tension and potentially pain from the body so that when we come to stillness to meditate, we’re more comfortable, and physically ready to do it. So the little sequence that I’m going to lead you through, we’re going to do a little standing posture work, but all the postures can actually be done from a seated posture position as well. So I will queue how you can do things seated. So this should be pretty accessible to anybody that’s participating this afternoon. So I’m going to stand up and step back to my mat and my chair. And if you’re at home, I invite you to stand up as well. And a lot of us have rolling chairs by our desks. So I invite you to set your chair up so that it is firmly against your desk so it won’t roll away. But before we do anything with our chairs, we’re just going to come into Mountain Pose. So I invite you, if you’re comfortable to take your shoes off, you don’t need any special clothing for this. But sometimes it can be really nice to come into your body a little more by just removing your shoes so you can also come into your feet if you’re still seated in your chair. I invite you to come right up to the edge of the chair, grounding your feet down. And now together, whether we’re seated or standing, we’re going to find a long spine. So you’ll feel the energy coming up from the floor into the legs, lifting up through the low back, opening and lifting your chest, tuck your chin, and lift the crown of the head to the ceiling. Closing your eyes if you haven’t already done so and just begin to focus on your breath. Finding a gentle inhale and exhale through the nose, and tuning into two things: the breath and the feeling of the body being online and alert here in our Mountain Pose. Continuing to breathe through the nose, we’re going to be moving with a gentle Forward Fold. So whether you’re standing or seated in your chair, you can let your chin drop to your chest and your forehead become heavy and let the weight of the head begin to round the shoulders, the upper back, middle back, and low back, letting the hands and the arms begin to dangle down to the floor. You’ll reach a point where you’re going to want to gently bend the knees and shift your hips backwards a little bit so you can come more fully into your Forward Fold. Dangling here in Uttanasana Pose, focusing on your breath and the subtle sensations of the body opening and stretching. Breathing into that for a moment. And then slowly, slowly will rise back up to standing. Bringing the hips back into alignment with the legs, unraveling the spine, unraveling your shoulders, opening your throat, and with the gaze up to the ceiling. And then bring your head back to neutral, inhale your arms high, making your body long from your sit bones or your feet all the way out through the fingertips and then bring your palms down to heart center. Now we’re going to do two side bending stretches, one to the right and one to the left. This one, too you could do from a seated position in the chair. So, we’re going to begin going down to the right. Relaxing your right ear towards your right shoulder, and letting the head get heavy, and the side body become soft. Bending into your right knee, and then when you hit your edge, inhale, lift your left arm up and turn your gaze to look up at your left hand. Finding a deep inhale and a slow exhale, and then rise back up. Coming back through center and then we’ll take it down to the opposite side. So letting the left ear melt down to the left shoulder, and the left arm become heavy. Coming in to the left hand side of the body, but then bending that left knee, reaching your edge and inhale your right arm high, turning your gaze to look up at the right hand. And then we’ll rise slowly but surely all the way back up to standing or to a nice long spine if you’re seated in a chair. And come back to Tadasana Pose. So the next set of stretches we’re going to do, we’ll bring the chair in. So align yourself to the chair or rearranging your space if you need to. If you’re still seated, just hinge at the hips and Forward Fold over your legs, either together or we could widen your knees apart. Inhale your arms high, gentle bend in the knees and exhale Forward Fold. This time we’ll rise up halfway on an inhale, bringing your hands to the seat of the chair or your knees. And we’re going to lift the tailbone, relax the belly or pull the belly forward, pull the chest forward, open the throat, and lift the gaze, Cow Pose. And exhale, seated or standing, tuck the tailbone, arch your spine back, tuck the chin, push the chair away or hang back off your knees in a seated position. Inhale to Cow one more time. And exhale to Cat, releasing tension from the spine. And then meet back in a flat back. And if you’re standing, we’re going to step the feet back for Chair Down Dog. You could also do this seated with your hands, maybe on your desk and just stretching your sit bones back in your chair or in a standing position. And here we can gently pedal the knees back and forth, to bring us into our hips and low back. Or you can just stay in a more static stretch. Feeling long from your fingertips, engaging the low belly up and in, and breathing into stretching and opening, you feel for the backs of the legs. And then we’ll walk half way back into the chair or rise up from your extended seated position, lifting and lengthening on an inhale and exhale melt in, Forward Fold. Letting the head and neck release. And breathing and softening here. Being fully in your breath and your body and feeling the subtle shifts as the body opens and lengthens. And then inhale, rise all the way to standing, sweep your arms high, and exhale palms to heart center. So now we’re all going to get in our chairs. So I’m going to orient my chair this way and we’re going to do a couple of my favorite seated chair stretches. So, if you need a little yoga break in the middle of your day and you’re actually at the office and you don’t want to attract too much attention, here are a couple easy postures to do right from your desk, right from your chair. The first one is a Seated Figure Four Stretch. So, we’ll cross right ankle over left knee and we’ll lift up through the low back, open the chest, engage the elbows down and in, tuck the chin, and then just hinge forward. So for me, I do not have to go very far before I get a really yummy stretch in the outside of my right hip, which helps relieve pressure or tension from the low back. Keeping the mind focused on the breath, and the sensation in the body. And then we’ll inhale, rise up, release the right foot, sweep your arms high and twist to the right. Bringing your left hand to your right knee and your right hand to the back of your chair. Here in your twist, see if you can find that long spine again, lifting up, opening your chest, gently pulling elbows in and turn your gaze to look behind you. So your spine follows the gaze. And then we’ll release, coming back to center, taking the legs wide and finding a nice little Side Angle Stretch. So we’ll bring right elbow to right knee, inhale the left arm up and over, and turn your gaze to look up to the ceiling, rooting through the left sit bone and feeling long and energized from your left hip out through your fingertips. And then rise back to center, bring the legs back together, and we’ll find the same three postures on the second side. So, left ankle crosses over right knee, right foot is pointing forward, lift through the low back, open the chest, tuck the chin and gently hinge forward. Nice deep inhale, long, slow exhale. Noticing what you find and being compassionate with your body. And then we’ll inhale, lift up, releasing the left foot. Inhale, bring your arms high and exhale, twist to the left. Bringing your right palm to either the inside of your right knee or the outside of the left, finding that nice long spine and then turning your gaze to the side or maybe out behind you. Breathing in to the twist. And release, inhale the arms high, exhale palms to heart center, and step your feet wide again. This time bringing left elbow to left knee, stretching your right arm, up and over. Turning to look up to the ceiling and feeling that long live energy and out through the right fingertips. Breathing and opening here. And then we’ll rise back up, bring the knees together, palms to heart center, and I think we are physically ready to do some meditation. I’m going to come back a little closer to you all. And now that we’re all in our chairs together, make sure your feet are grounded on the floor and your legs are at nice, 90 degree angles. This helps us come into alignment for our meditation work. So this meditation is inspired by my yoga teacher Rolf Gates, and it helps us learn how to come into the breath and the body and the present moment. So with your posture set, I invite you to close your eyes and just focus on your breathing. In and out through the nose. Nice deep inhale and a long, slow exhale. We use the breath to steady and ground and focus ourselves for our meditation practice. Sitting here and breathing, I invite you to take a moment to notice how long your inhale and your exhale are. Doesn’t it matter if one is longer than the other. Just note, is it three counts, four counts? And continue breathing in a calm and steady manner. An equal part inhale and exhale is a more energizing breath and a longer exhale than your inhale is a more calming, steadying breath. Find the breath pattern that you need at this point in your day. And now I invite you, if it feels comfortable to you, to grow your inhale and inhale by just one count. So finding a slightly more expansive inhale and a longer, slower exhale. And with a gentle breath, a gentle, expansive breath, I invite you to imagine sand settling to the base of a glass of water. The sand being the business of the mind and any restlessness you’re feeling in your body. With a gentle breath, allow the sand to settle. Continuing focusing on the breath, now we’re going to find that long spine. Lifting up through the low back, opening the chest, tucking the chin and lifting the crown of the head to the ceiling. Take a moment to breathe and feel in to what it’s like to be sitting here with a long spine. Noticing how your energy shifts when you find a long spine. With a long spine and a spacious breath, I invite you to imagine there’s a bowl of water resting on the crown of your head. Lengthen the spine in a way that allows you to bring the water to stillness. Feel the bowl resting on the crown of your head. Feel the effort of a long spine and balancing the water on your head. With the effort of a long spine and a concentrated mind, begin to relax. The spine stays long and the water stays still, but relax and soften as much as possible without letting your water ripple. Relax your shoulders, your chest, your back, your belly, the arms and hands. Let the body relax, but keep the spine long, and the breath gentle. Notice what it feels like to be sitting here with a long spine in a relaxed state. Keeping the water still, relax fully into the present moment. Keeping your eyes closed and the breath gentle and smooth, let your attention spread into the room around you. Notice any sounds or sensations in the space where you are. Notice silence. Relax into connection with the moment around you. Keeping the spine long and the water still in the breath, gentle and spacious, relax into connection and notice what you can. Notice what it feels like to be resting and present here in this timeless moment. I’ll leave you in silence just for a few rounds of breath to feel into the space you’ve found in this guided meditation. And I’m going to close our session with a Metta Blessing. May all beings be well, may all beings be kind, may all beings know peace and move through the world with ease. Namaste. Thank you so much for having me today.

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